That Dreary Day in Late February.
Prompt 28: Romeo, Romeo, where art thou?
One slightly dreary day in late February, Orihime finally gets sick of waiting.
It isn't really a huge revelation, there is no light bulb miraculously appearing above her head (which Orihime thinks is actually rather disappointing), it just dawns on her slowly, as she watches him drink from a purple juicebox.
The thought creeps up the back of her calves, slips itself around her spine and very slowly finds it's way into the back of her scalp, before whispering sweet nothings into the shell of her right ear.
Because really, Ichigo can't be that stupid, a voice that sounds suspiciously like Tatsuki's murmurs. He can't have missed your longing eyes, the way your fingers linger for just that second to long, and he simply can't miss the fact that you would go anywhere, do anything for him.
Can't miss the fact that you already have.
So she approaches him, on that slightly dreary day in late February, all fluttering heart and a head full of voices. Se stands before him in a right state, shaking fingers and brick wall hesitation.
And she does what everyone's always said she should do, she answers in the language that boys can seemingly understand, because that voice that sounds suspiciously like Tatsuki's is muttering in the back of her head that yes, all boy's are idiots.
She kisses him.
She kisses him as softly and as gently as she possibly can, because she doesn't want to scare him off, doesn't want him to slip through her grasp as the sand did that time at the beach. She doesn't want to lose this body in front of her, these lips that taste suspiciously like blackcurrent juice.
Maybe she whispers 'I love you' somewhere in there, she hopes she doesn't, because that would be a little embarrassing.
He's not responding, and it reminds her of that time she practiced kissing her mirror. That cold, harsh metal, immune to her touch, to her lips, to her love. So she backs away, and she doesn't pause to see the look of shock (or is it horror?) on his face, doesn't stop at all, just picks up her messenger bag (when did she drop that?) and runs the whole way home.
After Orihime's brother died, she went out and got a job.
She really would've preferred not to have one, but now, after so many years (has it really been that long?), she is rather grateful. The spare change has come in handy.
It isn't a particularly fashionable job, just at a tiny, local café on the second floor of a multi-story building. The balcony looks over a back-alley and Orihime always feeds the stray cats before she locks up and goes home. The manager trusts her. She's a trustable person.
Tonight, on this dreary night in late February, the stray cats (of which she has called Chicken and Pox) have jumped onto that small balcony, you know, the one overlooking that back alley. Mushi Street, she believes it's called.
She wanders over, a certain spring maybe missing from a certain step, and gently tickles behind Chicken's battered ear. She nearly hurtles backwards, when a voice calls her name.
"Pox!" Orihime states startled, eyeing the one-eyed beast, "I was unaware you had learnt the language of the people!"
"Not the friggin' cat! Me!" A voice calls, somewhere not far below this second story balcony.
Orihime leans over the edge to see a familiar head of orange hair, standing out like a beacon in that horribly unhygienic alley.
"Kurosaki-kun?" She replies, folding her arms over the metal bar that saves her daily from an unfortunate tumble.
He half-grins up at her (she thinks, she can't really see him all that well from here), and waves a little hesitantly.
She waves back, but doesn't waste her energy on a half-grin, what would be the point? Hers is full and honest and true.
"We need to talk," Ichigo says, rubbing the base of his neck, "Wait…I'll come up."
He eyes off the surroundings, before leaping onto a close-by pipe. Wincing as it breaks off, and falls unceremoniously to the ground.
Giggling, Orihime stares back down at him, ignoring that trivial tingle wracking her slight body. She watches as he searches for another way up, before giving up. Ichigo's all elaborate hand gestures tonight, frustration and confusion. She doesn't tell him that the door is unlocked.
He stares back up at her, eyes not quite meeting hers.
She giggles again, rolls her wrists around and gestures for him to continue.
"You kissed me, Inoue."
The butterflies are back, stampeding through her belly like nothing she's ever felt. Her heart is shivering, quaking in her chest, let me out it screams, let me free.
Ichigo's eyes are bigger than she's ever seen, and she's terrified that they'll fall out. Terrified that they'll pop out of his skull and run away from him, run so far and fast that Chicken and Pox will chase after them, try to eat them as they do to the alley rats.
She nods down at him, hair falling the distance between the wall on the balcony and the endless air beneath. She feels like Rapunzel, and below is her Prince Charming, he'll save her. Save her from loneliness and monotony.
"You kissed me, Inoue." He says again, "And you said you loved me."
He did hear then, Orihime thinks, but she's still worried about his eyes, because she's seen him fight beasts and monsters, and she's seen him be a saviour, a messiah, a mourner, a friend, a hero…and throughout it all, she's never seen him this scared.
"You look like Romeo down there, y'know." She murmurs, voice a flutter on the wind.
"I…I need…" He doesn't say anything else, just sighs, so frustrated, so confused.
She looks down at him still, and her heart is swelling, throbbing so violently in her chest, let me out, it says again, please.
"Orihime," he says, "…I need to know if you meant it."
And it hits her like a truck, all pain and agonising suddenness, that maybe what she loves about him isn't his heroism, isn't his loyalty, or the thousands of faces he can make that will make her laugh a thousand times harder than she thought possible after Sora died.
She loves him because they're the same. They were broken hearts and broken souls and uncertain everything else, they'd lost those they'd loved most in this entire world, and had been living, up until this very moment, on cheap substitutes.
They wanted love. Sweet and pure and as genuine as the sky is blue.
She didn't know what he needed, but she needed him.
"Every word, Ichigo." She says, voice as quiet as she could possibly make it.
He nods, and then he goes home.